FAQ – Sealing Criminal Records

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Being convicted of a crime can have long lasting consequences, not the least of which is that you will be left with a criminal record. This can make life more difficult by limiting your employment prospects, making it hard to find a decent place to live, preventing you from obtaining professional licenses, and disqualifying you from federal government services and programs. Some states make it possible to expunge or permanently erase a criminal record. Although this is not an option under New York law, certain criminal records can be sealed. While sealing does not erase your criminal record, it significantly limits who can have access to it. In general, a sealed record would not be available to the public and most public or private agencies. There are some exceptions. Agencies that would have still have access to your criminal record include: law enforcement, district attorney, probation, any entity that has the authority to issue firearms licenses, child protective services and certain other qualified agencies pursuant to New York law. At O’Connell and Aronowitz, we believe that the mistakes of the past should not follow you into the future. Our criminal defense attorneys work closely with clients to seal a variety of misdemeanor and felony criminal records.

What Types Of Criminal Records Can Be Sealed in New York?

In New York, criminal records are maintained by the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). If the criminal charges against you were dismissed, the prosecutor did not pursue charges, or you were acquitted, there is already a law in place directing the state to seal the record. Now, in the event of a conviction, certain criminal records can also be sealed. To be eligible, your conviction(s) or if sentenced to incarceration, your release after incarceration must have occurred at least 10 years ago. Eligible offenses include many drug-related misdemeanor and felony convictions, such as the possession and sale of marijuana or controlled substances, or the possession of drug paraphernalia. Additionally, convictions for “specified offenses” under New York Criminal Procedure Law such as burglary, criminal mischief and forgery can also be sealed. Further, misdemeanor and felony traffic charges, such as DWI and DWAI are eligible for sealing. In order to be eligible, there must be not be any pending charges or warrants against you. Finally, it is important to note that a sealed criminal record may still be used against you if you are arrested in the future. 

What crimes are not eligible?

Criminal records that are not eligible for sealing include sex offenses, violent crimes, and certain other enumerated felonies and misdemeanors. 

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How are criminal records sealed in New York?

In order to seal a criminal record, it is necessary to file a motion with the court in which the case was filed and prosecuted. The motion must include a certified copy of a disposition as well as sworn statements of the Defendant explaining to the Judge why the Court should grant the sealing of your record. A sealing is not automatic; it is up to the discretion of the Court, so any documents that support your request for a sealing should be attached. If the court approves the petition, it will be entered into the record at which time all records are sealed by the DCJS. However, the District Attorney may challenge the petition and conduct a hearing at which you must provide greater proof that the record should be sealed. 

The Benefits of Sealing a Criminal Record in New York

The main benefit of having a record sealed is that you will not have to divulge to employers or landlords that you have been convicted of a crime. Sealing a record may also improve your eligibility for housing assistance, student loans and other government programs. Moreover, you may become eligible for professional licenses that you were previously unable to obtain. Finally, sealing a record can eliminate the embarrassment of failing a civil background check and restore your good name. 

What if the record is not eligible to be sealed?

If the record is not eligible to be sealed under New York State law, it may be possible to obtain a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or Certificate of Good Conduct. 

Can sealed records still be viewed?

In some circumstances, sealed criminal records can still be viewed by law enforcement and prosecutors, the military – if you enlist, a gun licensing agency, a prospective employer if the job requires carrying a gun, such as the police, child care agencies, schools and hospitals. 

Why You Should Call O’Connell and Aronowitz

If you want to put the past and your criminal record behind you, our attorneys can help. We are well versed in the New York’s complex record sealing rules and have extensive experience representing clients in all the state courts. If you are looking to make a fresh start, call our office today to set up a consultation or complete the Contact Us form on this page. 

Locations We Serve

Our Criminal Defense lawyers work throughout the capital region and take on some of the most complex and high profile cases. With offices in Albany and Saratoga Springs, our location allows our attorneys easy access to all areas of the state.

Our Criminal Defense practice serves counties throughout upstate New York including Albany, Columbia, Greene, Saratoga, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Warren, and Washington counties. When your reputation is on the line, our criminal defense attorneys can help.

To learn more about our legal services in your area, visit our location page.

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